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A RETURN TO GREATNESS
address 8/17/03, National Mall, Washington, DC
We're here to celebrate Victorious America.
We congratulate our troops, who are in Iraq, right now, rubbing out the last of the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. We stand behind our troops, all around the world, confronting the enemies of freedom. We salute our troops, who have fought past wars to preserve our freedom. We welcome our troops, who are back home and with us today. And let our lives honor those troops who have made the ultimate sacrifice, some of whom lie buried across the river, in Arlington Cemetery.
America is against tyranny, and we fight against it whenever and wherever we need to. We're good at it, and we win those fights. We've had a lot of practice.
America itself was born out of the struggle to throw off the unjust rule of a king who had become a tyrant.
"Four score and seven years" later, Abraham Lincoln, whose Memorial this is, guided our young nation through the bloody convulsion of the Civil War, to rid America of the divisive tyranny of slavery.
And one hundred years after that, on this very spot, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told America of his dream, a dream in which the vision of the Founding fathers of this nation would, finally, become real.
And what was that vision? Of course, we've all heard the words. It was a vision of all men's equal rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
But the shining essence of the vision behind this great nation is Liberty.
America is the first nation in history to base itself on the liberty and sovereignty of the individual person.
The central purpose of our government is to secure our rights... To keep us free.
That's us. You and you and you and me. To let us stay free.
That's right. It comes right down to each one of us.
We are all involved in the war against tyranny. There's a part of it that is fought by our soldiers with bombs and bullets, against terrorists and tyrants. But there's another part that must be fought by each and every one of us. These are seemingly small tyrannies that invade our lives every day to take away our freedoms. They come in many disguises, but most importantly they are attitudes.
There is a movement invading America that asks us to give up our freedoms and our greatness in the name of conformity. A sneaky tyranny that asks us to give up the very ideals that America stands for. What for? So that we can be like the rest of the world. So that everyone will be the same. So that everyone can feel good about themselves. So we won't be unilateralists.
Well, we're going to suggest that another meaning for unilateralist is standing up for what you believe is right. When you stand up for what is right, you may indeed stand alone.
Margaret Thatcher said it best, "Freedom is not synonymous with an easy life. There are many difficult things about freedom. It does not give you safety; it creates moral dilemmas for you; it requires self-discipline; it imposes great responsibilities; but such is the nature of Man and in such consists his glory and salvation."
It's not an easy road. Having integrity, sticking to what you believe, has always required courage and that courage comes from having firm ideals. You've all heard that old phrase, "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything".
Well, we Americans are blessed, because this country has always held onto the ideals of a self-evident Truth... that when God gave us Life, He also gave us Liberty. Thousands upon thousands of our countrymen have died fighting for this self-evident Truth. But why? Because it's not a self-evident Truth to a lot of the rest of the world.
Since the beginning of this great country, we have been different and held different beliefs about the purpose of mankind and government. It was the first time in human history that a people thought enough of themselves to demand the right to govern themselves. We sometimes take that for granted, but it was a momentous leap for mankind to finally be in charge of its own destiny, its own happiness and not be the property of the State or a chattel of the King.
So, when we hear that we must make laws so that someone or some other nation could feel good about themselves, or not show our greatness so that others won't feel diminished in their own capacity; let's think about the greatest gift we can give someone... freedom to be in charge of their own destiny. As President Bush said, "Freedom is not America's gift to the world, it's God's gift to mankind."
Remember when we admired our heroes and recognized their greatness and worked to become like that ourselves? We used to do that in this nation, and there are still many who do that. Yet there is that everyday little tyranny that tries to make everyone the same, no one better than another. If no one is better than another, how can there be greatness? Do you really want to live in a world without greatness? NO! So, we must strive to recognize and to encourage greatness. The good thing is that it's within all of us; we all have the ability to be better than we think we are, and believe me, you will be called upon to show it someday.
Your shining moment may not be written up in the newspapers; your family may not even know about it, but you will be called upon to rise to the occasion and if you recognize greatness in others you'll be able to recognize your own greatness. And yes, you will rise to the challenge.
We must love our country, we must know what ideals She stands for, we must honor our ideals and stand firm in the face of these everyday tyrannies. We're all in this together and with courage, which is a true heart, we will win. It's not as difficult as you think. Now to close, Peter.
There are three tyrannies that face all of us, every day. They are Ignorance, Low Expectations and Fear.
We can fight the tyranny of ignorance. If your school didn't teach you American history, learn it for yourself. Find out what it was that the Founding Fathers believed so strongly that they risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for it. Then multiply your learning by helping another person learn to read... read the story of this great nation.
We can fight the tyranny of low expectations by doing our best. In America, equality means we are ALL free to do our best. We were not brought into this life to be the SAME! We're here to do our personal BEST!! Pray that you may learn your true value.
Doing our best is important, because the choices we make matter. The choices we make at the ballot-box matter to the direction of our government. The choices we make at the market matter to the economy of the whole country.
And the choices we make in our hearts are the most important of all, because they matter to our families, our friends and our communities, and these are the heart of America.
We can fight the tyranny of fear with love. What is liberty for? To be free to love and follow our heart's desire. To act on our beliefs and to be creative.
Two hundred twenty-seven years ago, America was dedicated to individual liberty. What is America? It's you and you and you and me. Let us re-dedicate ourselves to liberty. And let us use our liberty well, because, when someone asks us, "What's so good about America?" it is the privilege and the responsibility of each of us to answer, "I am!"
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© Copyright Peter and Helen Evans, 2003. All rights reserved.